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NEW DELHI : State governments across the country have started issuing orders to cinemas, allowing them to operate at 100% capacity after directives from the home ministry and ministry of information and broadcasting last week. As of now, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Gujarat have allowed the implementation of the 100% rule with others expected to follow soon. The state of Rajasthan, that had so far, refrained from reopening cinemas, has also permitted them to resume operations this month at 50% capacity.

“The government has acted in a timely and decisive fashion, having listened to our point of view. This is likely to be a huge shot in the arm for film business and help several producers line up their movies for theatrical release," Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer, PVR Pictures said.

Late last month, a film industry delegation led by Gianchandani and Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director of PVR Ltd, among others, along with actor and BJP MP Sunny Deol had met Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Union minister of information and broadcasting Prakash Javadekar to consider what they deemed necessities to help the ailing sector. The relaxation of the 50% capacity limit was a key demand.

The Indian film industry stares at several grave challenges in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic that has led to the permanent shutdown of over a thousand screens across the country last year. Film business in India is expected to contract by 67% over FY21 according to a recent KPMG report.

Trade analysts have emphasized that a revision in seating capacity will be a big positive for cinema and lead to release date announcements for large Hindi films. Given that it takes a minimum of three weeks of marketing for big-ticket Hindi film to hit screens, a major star vehicle like Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi could arrive in cinemas for the Holi weekend. While regional industries including those in the south have been lining up films for theatrical release banking on fan base in their native states, Bollywood producers have so far waited for pan-India theatre reopenings and revision in seating capacity limits.

“Even if producers have visibility of 70% of the states opening up with 100% occupancy, they will start announcing dates in the coming weeks for other films," Karan Taurani, research analyst at Elara Capital Ltd said.

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